Protecting Club Culture, Member Admissions & Board Composition

Boardroom Composition

Protecting Club Culture

As we strive for maximum club success with great facilities, delicious food, great golf, unlimited programs and ever-increasing quality in offerings, two basics for club success are often neglected; which, in the end, can undermine a club’s culture. These two often overlooked factors are member admissions and board compositions. They are most important for maintaining great clubs; as clubs, by their very nature, are first and foremost about the quality and compatibility of members. The number one strength of any club must be its members. When the quality of members falls, so does the quality of the club.

Member Admissions

When a club drops its member admission standards, an insidious cancer begins which will infect the board, leadership and ultimately the club. Sometimes this is a death spiral for a club as newer members drive out older members until the club has a whole new culture. Now this new culture can sometimes be a necessary redirection needed for club survival. Other times such changes result in bad members driving out good members and the ability to attract good members. Likening this good member/bad member scenario to that of human behavior in economics, “Bad (highly-inflated) money will always drive good (low-inflated) money out of circulations.” Likewise, uncouth members will drive out civilized members.

Board Composition

Then when a club becomes composed of a majority of uncouth members, the board will be composed of such persons spelling the decline of a club as, “Water, as well as club quality, will seek its own level.” For a club to safeguard itself, it must consciously guard its membership quality and admissions process if it wants to remain great and keep its culture. This is why we stress the two most important club committees, the membership admissions and the board-nominated committee, so to preserve club quality. Every club must protect its membership culture; and, the best way to do this is to be sure every new member is someone every existing member would be proud to call a friend.

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About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA


Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

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